IEEE Mass Storage Conference Highlights

I attended this year’s IEEE Mass Storage Conference, and as always it was a great learning experience. I have been attending the conference for over 15 years and the conference has changed focus significantly.

Back 15 years ago – and even 5 years ago – the conference was dominated by high performance computing people, as they were the ones pushing storage to the limit. Today the conference has presentations from Ebay, Facebook and others, both infrastructure users and providers. The reason is that these are the environments that are driving storage not the HPC community.

Some themes in the conference are that big data will be using flash for workloads from Ebay and others; the challenges for storage using OpenStack; and details and usage examples for Seagate’s Kinetic drives. It was very interesting to hear from this presentation how the drive can take random I/O and make them sequential, instead of 150 random IOPS and .59 MB/sec random write performance of 50 MB/sec, as the data is written sequentially on the disk. This is one of the many reasons why you want the disk drive doing the allocation rather than a file system on a server that does not understand the file system topology.

In thinking about the performance for random writes, that is an 84x improvement in performance over a standard disk drive, which is pretty amazing. The Kinetic drive picks up the baton where ANSI T10 Object Storage Device was supposed to be providing a SCSI methodology of having disk drives manage the allocation. This technology was lost in the recession as far as I am concerned, but Kinetic provides a put/get interface with key value store to manage the drive. Yes, random reads will be the about the same as a standard disk drive today, but 84x on writes is something to write about.